Rape accusations in China: When wives protect their errant husbands

The alleged rape case involving a former Alibaba manager kept netizens riveted as charges were dropped as quickly as arrests were made. Unlike the #MeToo movement in the West where many of the victims rally around each other to seek justice against their oppressors, in China, the female victims — those preyed upon and the wives of the alleged perpetrators — seem to be fighting each other in the aftermath of tragedies. Why aren’t the males involved manning up and owning up?
A couple hug as they look out at a night view through a fence at the Central Television Tower in Beijing, China, on 26 August 2021. (Jade Gao/AFP)
A couple hug as they look out at a night view through a fence at the Central Television Tower in Beijing, China, on 26 August 2021. (Jade Gao/AFP)

On 23 August, the wife of Mr Wang, one of the suspects in the alleged Alibaba Group Holding rape case, asserted that her husband might have made a mistake but he did not commit a crime. On 5 September, the virtuous Mrs Wang further stated that her husband was framed. One day later, prosecutors in Jinan dropped the case against Wang, saying that his behaviour did not constitute “forcible indecency” which would be a criminal offence. Nonetheless, he was given a 15-day administrative detention for the “indecency” he was involved in. 

On 12 September, the wife of Mr Zhang, another suspect in the case, also declared that her husband was seduced by the victim. One day later, having seen Mrs Zhang’s statement, Mrs Wang decided to sue the victim for framing her husband. The truth is still hazy, and wives and curious onlookers alike will have to await final conclusions by the police.

Some netizens sided with Mrs Wang and Mrs Zhang after reading their statements, praising them as “best wives of modern China”. But this is ridiculous.

A betrayal but not a crime

But no matter what the truth is, we’ve witnessed the absurdity and irony of the situation: women fighting against women.

A man walks past a logo of Alibaba Group at its office building in Beijing, China August 9, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang
A man walks past a logo of Alibaba Group at its office building in Beijing, China August 9, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang

There is no solid evidence to prove whether the victim seduced Mr Wang or Mr Zhang, but we know two things for sure. First, Mr Wang exhibited behaviours of indecency and was given a 15-day administrative detention. Though his case was dropped by the prosecution, it doesn’t mean that he is totally innocent. Both Mrs Wang and Mrs Zhang admitted that their husbands had sexual intercourse with the female victim, which further confirms that Mr Wang and Mr Zhang are not innocent. Just because they may not be punished for forcible indecency does not prove that they are the victims in this complicated case.

Some netizens sided with Mrs Wang and Mrs Zhang after reading their statements, praising them as “best wives of modern China”. But this is ridiculous. Both Mrs Wang and Mrs Zhang portrayed themselves to be selfless wives and their husbands as excellent breadwinners with the only flaw of being weak-willed against the wiles of loose women. What’s worse, they emphasised that this case has destroyed their families and adversely affected their children and parents in particular. 

But the statements from the "best wives" puzzled me. Did Mr Wang and Mr Wang care about their families? Did they even think about the disaster they would bring unto their wives, kids and parents? If as Mrs Zhang said, their parents have suffered from chronic illnesses for many years, why did Mr Zhang still have the impulse to cheat or commit indecency while escaping their familial responsibilities? I cannot sympathise with Mr Wang or Mr Zhang after reading their wives’ complaints. What I see from these statements is that both Mr Wang and Mr Zhang are irresponsible men who put their sexual pleasures first and do not care about their family at all. What they should do is to refuse sex out of wedlock in the first place. That is the key to preventing tragedies from happening.

Slut-shaming is the only way they can allow themselves to forgive their husbands and to help their husbands escape serious charges.

A woman and a child walk past a mall as it rains in Beijing, China, on 23 August 2021. (Noel Celis/AFP)
A woman and a child walk past a mall as it rains in Beijing, China, on 23 August 2021. (Noel Celis/AFP)

Both Mrs Wang and Mrs Zhang seem to forget that the female victim would not have the physical advantage in “forcing” two men into sexual activity. And if they want to know the details of what happened, they should ask their dear husbands, rather than making the female victim recall what happened that day. What’s even more pathetic is that Mrs Wang and Mrs Zhang sanctify themselves as holy devoted mothers and wives on the one hand, but blame another woman for seducing their apparently oblivious husbands on the other. Slut-shaming is the only way they can allow themselves to forgive their husbands and to help their husbands escape serious charges. There might be some reasons behind their unreasonable devotion, but they should never forget that their husbands are the root cause of the farce going around them.

Setting a bad example

Mrs Wang and Mrs Zhang also set a bad example for married couples. Though the surveillance video footage showed Mr Wang going into the female victim’s room in a conscious state, Mrs Wang and Mrs Zhang insisted that their husbands were seduced. If their willingness to forgive and endless devotion end up being praised, some men might compare their wives to them, asking: “If Mrs Wang and Mrs Zhang can forgive their cheating husbands, why can’t you do the same?” In this pending case, Mrs Wang and Mrs Zhang are also victims of their husbands’ misdeeds, but they don’t even have the time to question their husbands. What keeps them busy is their endless chores, untraceable rumours, and the huge burden of dealing with this unexpected incident. In their statements, they also emphasised that they were prim and proper wives and mothers, signing off as Mr Wang’s wife and Mr Zhang’s wife. Besides their zealous efforts in saving their husbands, their massive familial duties and their extreme anger towards the female victim, we know nothing of who they are as individuals, not even their surnames or names. 

And public sentiment is strange as well, calling for either supporting Mrs Wang and Mrs Zhang or the female victim, allowing the male suspects to be invisible.

Children ride on kick scooters pulled along by adults in Beijing, China, on 27 August 2021. (Noel Celis/AFP)
Children ride on kick scooters pulled along by adults in Beijing, China, on 27 August 2021. (Noel Celis/AFP)

And public sentiment is strange as well, calling for either supporting Mrs Wang and Mrs Zhang or the female victim, allowing the male suspects to be invisible. So far, the case is turning out to be a war between women. Once again, women are propelled to the forefront of a rape case as both the victim and perpetrator. In fact, the narrative on the male suspects thus far makes me doubt whether it is a rape case we’re talking about. It seems that this case has nothing to do with men, and they are just the little fuse that ignited this whole debacle. I really feel sorry for Mrs Wang and Mrs Zhang. They are victims too but they are pointing their swords at another female victim, and babysitting and sheltering their husbands like their own sons. If being a wife means being like Mrs Wang or Mrs Zhang, I bet that the marriage rate or fertility rate in China will decline again. 

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